Team’s Brazilian drivers enjoyed steady progress from Friday test to Saturday race
BROWNSBURG, IN – Afterburner Autosport and their young Brazilian drivers Victor Franzoni and Gustavo Myasava delivered strong showings last weekend (May 23-24) at the seventh race of the 2014 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. The duo competed in the annual ‘Night Before The 500’ event at the 5/8-mile Lucas Oil Raceway oval in Indianapolis, Indiana and once again, the team ended the event by celebrating a podium finish. Franzoni led the team’s efforts as he drove to a very impressive third-place finish in the 75-lap oval race, his fourth podium of the year, having been part of the victory celebrations in all four events in 2014. Myasava worked consistently to find speed throughout the weekend, and never stopped improving his racecraft and his lap times as he drove to a 17th-place finish on Saturday evening.
Franzoni’s weekend began with a focus on becoming even more comfortable on the oval. Series testing on Friday was spent searching for speed and balance in the Brazilian’s #17 Afterburner Autosport entry and through three on-track sessions, Franzoni maintained a position within the top-10 fastest cars on track. The 18-year-old dropped his times from session to session during the day and ended with the 10th fastest time of the 21-car field. Myasava dropped four-tenths of a second throughout the test and would be classified 18th heading into race day.
Saturday’s weather forecast called for clear skies, which contrasted the last few years, which were hampered by rain. Single-car qualifying is where all the team’s hard work throughout the weekend really showed, as did the addition of noted engineer and car builder Steve Lathrop. The Afterburner brain trust worked together to develop a strong set-up for qualifying, which featured a two-lap, combined time format. Franzoni was hooked up on his two-lap timed session as he posted a 21.905 on his first lap, which led to a combined time that was good enough for fourth on the starting grid. Myasava’s improvement was the most notable as he was very consistent during his run, qualifying with a strong 12th-place effort to set him up for the Saturday night showdown.
The 75-lap main event rolled out at 7:40 pm, and the cooler night air provided the opportunity for a blistering pace and a more ‘free’ racecar. The start went well for Franzoni as he jumped immediately into the lead fight, settling into fifth position as part of an aggressive five-car battle. The race went green-to-checker with no caution periods, which increased the importance of having the proper chassis set-up. Franzoni maintained his impressive pace to advance to third, less than five seconds behind the race winner. The strong weekend leaves him sitting in the fourth position in the championship point battle, and certainly in contention for the championship thanks to his amazing consistency. The Brazilian won the opening round of the series in St. Petersburg and has been on the podium during all four weekend-events this season.
“The ‘Night Before The 500’ at Lucas Oil Raceway was amazing. It was my first time competing on an oval so I was quite nervous before the race, but once we started, I began to learn how to drive side-by-side and how to drive behind the other guys,” Franzoni admitted, still taking in the new experience. “My car was very good, so in the middle of the race I passed the fourth and third place competitors and drove to the finish of the race, taking the third position. It was a pleasure for me to finish on the podium on the oval. The team has been doing a great job, as I’ve finished on the podium in all the tracks. Now we have to keep this pace and continue to take some points, as we are now closer in the championship.”
Myasava drove well throughout the race, and gained vast amounts of experience on the oval while also making a great race out of it. Myasava ended his lone oval race of the season finishing one lap down in 17th, but his speed continued to develop as he turned his fastest circuit of the race on lap 59.
The Afterburner Autosport team will now turn their focus to a series test session at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on June 4-5, before heading to Rounds Eight and Nine of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Presented by Mazda on the streets of Toronto, Ontario on July 18-20.